The sex and dating were fantastic, and yet, it’s my only regret in life. Here’s a little background before I dive into details:
I was a grad student at a prestigious school and coming up on year six of being single. I was fulfilled in all areas of my life except the relationship zone, or so I thought. I traveled alone, went to dinner and the movies alone, I stayed up late, ate ice cream right out of the tub buck naked, and had quite the collection of vibrators to keep me sexually satisfied in between one-night stands…for the most part.
Anyway, “Peter,” was one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen. He was tall, had dark hair, and the most stunning green eyes you could imagine. We were in the same seminar together. Every Wednesday, about twelve of us would meet with the professor and sit around a huge conference table and engage in discussion.
On the first day of class, “Peter” sat across from me and at the other end of the table. I noticed he would articulately piggyback off my questions or comments, and I would do the same for his. It was as if we were having a discussion with each other. I guess we were on the same page in regard to the discourse, and it made him seem even more attractive.
I still get flutters when I remember walking into class the following Wednesday. I trudged up the old marble steps, firmly gripped the brass door handle, and was greeted by “Peter’s” warm smile as he shifted his belongings from the space beside him and nodded.
He saved me a seat. It was over.
We went on like this for the next few weeks. Regardless of how early I arrived, he’d be there waiting with a warm smile and a seat. At first, we talked about the readings and maybe current events, but then we just got to know each other (with one omission of course). Then he started walking me to my car after class.
One breezy Spring afternoon, we made light conversation as he walked nervously beside me.
“I really like you,” he said.
I smiled while wondering if he could hear how loudly my heart was pounding in my chest too.
“Would you like to go out?”
“Yeah,” or something to that effect was my reply.
“OK, but you have to know, I’m in an open relationship.”
Well, fuck. I knew what an open relationship was, however, I NEVER considered being a component of that equation. I remember my face feeling warm and a sudden awareness of how much the birds were chirping in the nearby ficus trees. I asked him a series of questions:
“Are you sure?”
“I mean, she knows the relationship is open too, right?”
He laughed, which didn’t really help the situation, then continued.
“We’re getting married and — ”
I honestly should have just driven off then, but he was hot and intelligent and oh so confident and I wanted to fuck his brains out. So, like the thirstiest horny fool, I listened.
“We’re getting married,” he repeated, “and since I’ve never been with another woman she wanted me to have that experience now so I wouldn’t be tempted to stray when we’re married.”
— What the fuck? OK, hold on Lila…you’re looking at this in retrospect and as an older and wiser woman.
I think I clarified once more that they were in fact in an open relationship that was her idea. To be honest, I was so hurt I don’t think I really cared, or rather, I thought I would be strong enough to have my fun then walk away. After all, my vibrators were putting in overtime since I met him, so, I said yes to our first of many dates.
Our First Date
I kept my apartment clean but ran the gamut of Saturday morning chores with the added vigor that came from knowing I was going to be bringing someone home. It had been a while. There was that time in Amsterdam with the cute Australian the year before…
After cleaning, I made a run to WholeFoods for a cheese selection to pair with the bottle of red I got from BevMo, then filled my car up with gas since I insisted on driving. I guess it was my way of exercising control over the situation.
With my apartment clean, I waxed and showered, threw on my new outfit, put on makeup, set the wine to breathe then headed out the door. I remember just sitting in my car for a moment or two and really thinking about what it was that I was about to do. Once I had reassured myself that the three of us — myself, “Peter,” and his fianceé — were in agreement with what was about to transpire, I turned over the ignition then picked up “Peter.”
We had dinner at some trendy Eastside hotspot and couldn’t take our eyes off each other. He was wearing a button-down, long-sleeved shirt that made the green in his eyes pop, paired with nice slacks and leather shoes and a belt to match. I wore my hair down with a cute black and white dress and sensible shoes I’m sure since I can’t see my feet in the pictures.
We finished up an exquisite meal but skipped dessert since we didn’t want it to interfere with our performances later, then we headed back to my place. He complimented me on how immaculate my space was, I put on some music, grabbed the wine and cheese then lit a fire before turning out the lights.
We must have sat in front of the fireplace for hours just chatting and drinking wine. Soon after, both our voices got lower, our eyelids heavier, and before I knew it, he leaned in for a sensual kiss. We finally broke the kiss to lay out a blanket in front of the fire.
“I’m gonna grab a condom,” he breathed.
“I’ve got one here,” I said while pulling the gold wrapper from my bra.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.
I thought about it.
“Are you really in an open relationship?”
“Then yes,” I said, although I’m not sure if I meant it even looking back now.
We made love, then went to bed.
It was more of the same in the morning. We made arrangements for our next date and briefly discussed the class readings while I dropped him off.
Nothing changed between us in class, and we went on more and more dates which simply complicated the situation. I fell in love with him. I was in a close approximation to being in love with him, rather. I was sprung, and all thoughts of being able to walk away from the situation (I almost said relationship!), had been folded into a paper plane, lit on fire and thrown out the window.
I Facebook stalked him and his fianceé and spent almost every waking minute thinking about him and our next date — our next time making love — and every time I did, I went further and further down the rabbit hole of lost self-respect. But, the end was near.
…Having to share him over several months was only just bearable, never sustainable…
I should have been happy. I was getting my graduate degree and he was getting his. Except, he and his fianceé were moving away after graduation and we mutually understood that what we had — what we were doing — was coming to an end.
On our last date, we went on a picnic. Gourmet highstreet sandwiches and fine wine in a bucolic setting. We talked about job prospects, our overall plans for the future, and swore that we’d keep in touch.
I wanted him. I wanted him to stay, and I wanted him to stay with me. I wanted him, despite how happy he and his fianceé looked in their Facebook photos together. I didn’t want to destroy what they had though, I just wanted more.
I wanted more, so much more. I knew that couldn’t be, so I smiled and poured the wine. Deep down, he would never truly be mine. Having to share him over several months was only just bearable, never sustainable. There weren’t any photos of us together, anywhere, and there never would be. Just photos of me in the most carefully scouted, picture-perfect places taken by a phantom.
We made love once more, cried, and said our goodbyes. We were supposed to go to each other’s graduation ceremonies. He ‘accidentally’ gave me the wrong time for his so I was late, and he showed up to mine sans fianceé. This upset me. I wanted to see her in person, to talk to her, to make sure that the dates, excursions and mindblowing sex were all her design. I needed to justify our arrangement by having done ‘all I could’ to prove it was true — that all parties were privy to what we were doing. But all I had was his word.
After the ceremony, he presented me with a beautiful, leather-bound journal with intricate etchings. The first twelve pages were a summary of our time together and the moments we shared. I read his words over, and over, and over…
I moved and took the journal with me. I read its pages less and less. I moved again and took it with me. One afternoon, as I was putting tape on the last moving boxes, I found his gift in the back of a drawer. Out of curiosity, I looked him up on Facebook. His profile picture was of him and his wife bounding happily down the church steps after exchanging their wedding vows. But the woman in the photo was not the woman he called his fianceé while we were — while we were using each other.
I threw the journal away.
I can’t vilify him, even though my tone may have suggested that in more than a few places. I regret saying ‘yes’ to our arrangement because I had to throw away a few respectable pieces of myself to do so. I had to give up so much self-worth to be with him, whatever that meant.
I’d like to say I knew right away that I should have declined. In reality, it took several months for me to realize that I deserved better. I deserved more than suspending my disbelief that it wasn’t his fianceé texting him at 1 am, wondering where he was. I deserved more than nights alone by the fire as his reminiscent words burned a hole through my yearning heart. I deserved more than crumbs, despite the fact they can be just as tasty as the whole slice.